Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Late Tackle, 02 21 2017: Kicking at a Mental Block (Nagbe) and Vancouver Rebuilds Without a Foundation(?)

It is A plan, I suppose.
“Nagbe-led Timbers clicking, but Porter wants more”
MLSSoccer.com could not have slapped a more “click-baity” tease to this article, at least not for me, due to what my counselor politely calls “heightened, specific / troublesome interest” in Darlington Nagbe (I’m working on getting that third modifier scrubbed from my file, but every day’s a new day. For the record, the actual article – one that examines the decision to stick Nagbe on the left wing, and the meaning thereof - carries a more measured headline…so I probably wouldn’t have clicked on the thing, so, to MLS’s headline hacks, you’ve earned your rent this month.

It’s that word, “led,” that creates the cognitive dissonance, because I see Nagbe as more of a facilitator than a leader. It’s been said (over and over and over and over) that Nagbe could be a truly great attacking player, but raw talent depends on disposition and what a player is motivated to do: that's what will define where and how Nagbe brings his best to Portland, whatever that best may be.

The article raises one specific point, I’d like to scratch at – the one that inspired the poll I posted today: will Nagbe return to his same level of “production” in 2017 that he achieved in 2013? Here’s my answer:

Personally, I don’t think Nagbe will score as many goals as he did in 2013 – and that goes back to the above point about disposition. That’s not to say I wouldn’t welcome it if he banged in a baker’s dozen (I mean, by all fucking means, kid), but I’m neither expecting that nor banking on it. What I do believe is that Porter has come up with what looks like a good system for Portland’s attack down the left. Moreover, that system will afford Nagbe with opportunities to shoot: the question will be, as ever, what he does with those. (Or will he spurn them, as he does my unflagging obsession?) (Also, I don’t like the choices he and his wife made in their kitchen*. I mean, that back-splash? Are they blind?!)

Now, to Dip Up North
As noted in yesterday’s The Kick Off, it looks the Vancouver Whitecaps will show up to their CONCACAF Champions’ League tie against the New York Red Bulls less a couple attacking players (notably, Cristian Bolanos, Nicholas Mezquida and new kid Yordy Reyna, and newest kid, Fredy Montero, who's working of his leisure time in China). This could track as a snake-bit team, but I think Vancouver hasn’t made much of a rebuild. For instance, I’ve read/heard a couple takes on Montero that make a pretty strong case that he’s not the kind of player they need – or, rather, that he’s duplicative.

More than that, though, I don’t think Vancouver has got the kind of player they need – e.g., the brain they lost as far back as when Pedro Morales stopped producing (which makes it a couple years ago). The question for remains, who will get the ‘Caps attackers the ball in the right places?

I’m actually working on a pair of season previews, big goddamn monsters that check in with local blogs to see what they’re saying about each of MLS’s local teams. The Eastern Conference edition will (or should) go up tomorrow, and the Western Conference’s shortly thereafter. Looking forward to seeing how what I’m thinking about Vancouver lines up.

If I didn’t do the Nagbe poll today, I was going to put up one about how people expect the Cascadia teams to stack up. I know where I’d put Vancouver in that mix right now…

Oh, one thing that no Timbers fan should lose sight of: the Timbers have yet to record a clean sheet this preseason – not even against this edition of Vancouver, and that’s playing starters. If that ain’t food for thought, you’re unconsciously starving yourself.

Right. All done.

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